Anytime I read a story like this, I am struck by two conflicting reactions:
- No kidding.
Unfortunately, this is not a tidy analogy. Fitch explicitly compares words and genes, the 'replicators' in the system, but that is certainly not the only way to read the analogy. In some ways, it makes more sense to link words and organisms, so that punctuations, replication, and extinctions act on the right sort of entities (I often get the feeling that biologists themselves are occasionally unsure whether the word "population" refers to a collection of organisms of a collection of genes--or if there is a difference). At still another level, it would seem that words/species, fill niches within a language/ecology. In one sense, all of these models work; I can gain insights into language if I make an evolutionary analogy at any of these levels. In another sense, they simply encourage loose thinking about something that's already confused enough.